What's the Meaning Behind the Metal Stars
What is the Real Meaning Behind the Metal Stars on this House?

Foreign tourists and even Americans are often puzzled when they see the five-pointed stars attached to the walls of many homes in rural America.

Most of stars are made from metal, and some are constructed out of wood, too.

In other cases, they are painted right onto the structure.

The homeowners hang the decorative old-looking metal stars on their homes simply because they enjoy and like them. Usually they are 5-pointed and come in various sizes. Sometimes they are hung on the porch wall. Other times you see them hung near the gable, on the garage or on a barn, etc.

So what are these five-pointed stars?

If you ask locals or owners of houses, you will get answers with different names. They can be named in many ways: Amish Barn Star, Barnstars Star and Pennsylvania Star, etc.

You will be told by the locals many myths and superstitious stories surrounding this 5-pointed star exterior decoration.

Join Knowinsiders.com to discover the interesting secrets behind the 5-pointed star attached to homes in the US.

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The Interesting History Behind the Metal Stars on Houses and Porches

According to historians, the first people to hang primitive stars on the side of barns were Dutch and German settlers. The stars were hung to ward off evil and bring good luck to farmers and they still hold the same symbolism today.

Centuries ago, groups of religious refugees from Germany migrated towards Pennsylvania. Among those refugees were Amish and Mennonites – distinctively plain-dressed demographics – along with Lutherans.

Over time, these groups were homogenised in popular thought, and simply known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch”. Some of the settlers painted colourful geometric designs on their barns. They ascribed meanings to the various symbols. However, over time, they whittled their symbols down to one: a star.

In Pennsylvania the Amish barnstars became very popular after the American Civil War. While some were purely aesthetic, or superstitious, others represented the builder of the barn. They were a point of pride and identity, too.

Terry Bishop, a florist at Mugford's Flower Shoppe in Westborough said the stars could be an evolved form of the pineapple, frequently used as a sign of welcome on people's doors.

The Metal Stars on House: Real Meaning and Interesting History
A Black Metal on Old Brick House in the US
A “barn star” and may have originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch, who fled Europe to escape religious persecution in the 18th century and settled in the area. The Amish, Mennonites, and others took to painting different symbols on barns or homes, including a star that was believed to bring them good luck.

What is the Real Meaning Behind the Metal Stars on Houses and Porches?

The Metal Stars on House: Real Meaning and Interesting History
A Large Metal Star on New House in the US Today

In reality, these plates serve a vital structural function, and their pervasiveness in older US cities (including Philadelphia, New York and St. Louis) is no coincidence — they can be really useful in holding old buildings together.

Think back to the classic barn red color, which was thought to be tinted with rust to prevent the wood from rotting. Well as it turns out those stars on old buildings also have a purpose.

The stars on older buildings can be on the front or the sides, they can be large or small.

The stars can have 5 points or 6, and they are often painted different colors depending on how the shutters and trim are painted.

But, the stars have a purpose that goes far beyond looking good.

Different color stars also have alternate meanings behind them. Black and blue stars symbolize protection for the farm. Brown stars represent friendship and strength. A white barn star stands for purity and energy, while a violet star has a holy meaning behind it. A green primitive star is supposed to bring growth and fertility to the farm. Finally, a yellow star signifies the love of man and the sun.

The stars are in effect giant washers. They are there to keep long metal bolts from slipping through the bricks. This method of running a long bolt through the house and securing it at the ends is a way of keeping old brick buildings from swaying and crumbling. They are often found on the fronts of these buildings since the floor joists were often placed running front to back. The bolts go through the brick, into the floor joists, and out the other side.

Over time brick buildings can settle and bulge. If this happens the building is less structurally sound. To combat this movement over time these bolts keep the building straight. The stars are a great-looking way of doing this, but sometimes large nuts or unadorned metal plates are used instead.

There are also other decorative shapes that are used this this purpose as well, such as the violin-like the scroll patterns you also see on old buildings. So the next time you see these “decorative” features on a building you’ll know that it at one point it got a little wobbly and just needed some help standing up straight.

Amish Barn Stars and Pennsylvania Stars

For one thing, those particular stars have a very specific name, depending on where you are. They can go by Amish Barn Stars, Barnstars and Pennsylvania Stars, and while they are typically credited to the Pennsylvania Dutch who came over to the U.S. in the 1880s.

The Pennsylvania Dutch also considered the five-pointed star to be a symbol of good luck. Although it’s not official, apparently the color of the star denotes a specific meaning. For example, blue stars signify protection and green stars symbolize fertility and growth — ideal for a farm.

The funny thing about these stars is the number of rumors regarding their meaning. Most homeowners or farmers who have one have probably never given it much thought, but other people certainly have.

The practice soon went beyond religious affiliation, with homeowners using the star as a kind of property fashion statement or to symbolize a warm welcome to visitors. Some also view it as patriotic, a practice that picked up following the end of the Civil War.

Pennsylvania Dutch historian David Fooks said that the star didn’t carry any particular importance and that the Amish simply liked to decorate their barns, which were hugely important to their farming communities.

Star Bolts and Star Anchors

A slightly different kind of star sometimes appears on brick buildings. Known as star bolts, they're not strictly decorative. Instead, the star is the washer for an iron rod placed through a sagging or compromised wall to preserve its structural integrity and prevent it from buckling further.

Star bolts (and other shapes) are a common engineering retrofit, running through the brick and connecting facades to the joists behind the brick to stabilize things. Sometimes, bulged bricks need to be pushed back into place first, depending on the extent of the issue. Rods are then threaded through and held in tension by washers. The surface plates then spread the tension load across multiple bricks. A star shape can do the job well, reaching out in multiple directions at once while also looking intentional in various orientations.

Anchor plates can be shaped like diamonds or circles, too; square versions are common, simple, cost-efficient and often found around the Bay Area serving to reinforce old walls in part for seismic reasons.

Myth and Superstition about the Metal Star on House and Porches

Metal Stars on House: Myth, Superstition, History and Real Meaning
Myth and Superstition about the Metal Star on House

The rumor seems to have started in 2007 when someone started a thread on stripersonline.com claiming that the metal star means the homeowners are swingers, and the conclusion seems totally arbitrary.

The swinger is a term sometimes used to mean couples that swap sexual partners.

"My wife and I decide to start a rumor - the star means you are a swinger," the user wrote. According to the New York Post, there are several "secret signs" that a homeowner is a swinger, and all should be taken with a grain of salt, as none of these signs have been substantiated. For instance, pampas grass, pink flamingos, and pineapple decor also allegedly means that you're in the midst of a family of swingers.

In 2007, it was rumored that stars meant hosts were swingers, a term used to describe couples who "swapped" partners. As with most rumors, this story seems too crazy to be true.

Again, in late December 2020, a social media post went viral that stated houses with five-pointed stars adorning their exteriors indicate that the home's residents are "swingers.

In fact, most people in rural Vermont and Pennsylvania are not swingers. Most likely it's just people who enjoy what the star stands for or just think their home looks better, more traditional with the star.

We didn't find any evidence to support the claim that "swingers" put five-pointed stars outside their homes to attract potential "swinger" partners.

Anyone can readily find a barn star for purchase with a simple Google search — they are fairly common decorations, particularly in places like Pennsylvania. And no, you won't be putting up a bat signal for itinerant swingers.
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